Deni Avdija, 19, who turned pro at the age of 16 becoming the youngest player to debut in Israel's senior basketball league and was selected ninth overall by the Washington Wizards in last month's NBA draft, wished Jews around the world a happy Hanukkah while reciting the traditional candle lighting prayers in an online video ceremony organized by the Israeli embassy last Thursday.
Avdija, who was drafted for a short stint in the IDF in April with the basketball season suspended due to the Coronavirus, and is the son of Yugoslavian-born former Israeli league and Yugoslav national team basketball player Zufer Avdija, created an all-Hebrew twitter account for his Israeli fans after signing with Washington.
Former MK Dov Lipman welcomed the gesture, tweeting: The unthinkable happened. Incredible to see Deni Avidja lighting the Chanukah Menorah dressed in his Washington Wizards uniform. A proud Israeli. A proud Jew In the NBA!
During his interview with ESPN on draft night, Avdija, who became the first Israeli drafted in the top ten in NBA history, said he was proud of his background and promised to make his country proud in the world's top basketball league.
“It means a lot for me. Israel is a small country that didn’t provide as many NBA players, and for me to represent my country and be in the highest spot possible is amazing,” he said.
“I’m super excited and ready to get my game to the next level.”
Avidja sent out a message to friends, family and fans at home in Israel. “I truly love them, love the support. I’m going to make you proud, I going to work a hundred percent.”